Lao flood emergency

Delivering safe water and sanitation for children at risk

Simon Nazer
Two boys use a UNICEF- and USAID-supported tap in Ban Bok camp, Attapeu, Lao PDR.
UNICEF Laos/2018/Simon

19 September 2018

UNICEF, with the support of USAID, is working to install water pumps and toilets in camps for children and families displaced by the floods which swept through south Lao PDR late July this year.

Khao Yai, 12, in Ban Bok camp, Attapeu, Lao PDR.
UNICEF Laos/2018/Simon
Khao Yai, 12, in Ban Bok camp, Attapeu, Lao PDR. He is one of more than 4,000 people displaced by the recent flood emergency in the country.

Witnessing the floods take their homes and in many cases livelihoods was an overwhelming experience for children and families. “I just remember water coming into my home and people shouting,” says Khao Yai, 12, who is staying in a camp in Bon Bok. “I don’t really remember much after that. We just had to go right away, we left everything.”

Two children stand on a flooded road on the way to Ban Bok Camp, Attapeu, Lao PDR.
UNICEF Laos/2018/Simon
Two children stand on a flooded road on the way to Ban Bok Camp, Attapeu, Lao PDR.

Khao’s experience is shared with over 4,000 other people who were displaced by the floods.

During such emergencies, access to clean water and sanitation facilities becomes extremely important to ensure people stay healthy and clear of potentially life-threatening diseases. This is why one of UNICEF’s priorities is to deliver safe water and sanitation facilities to hard-to-reach camps like Ban Bok, with USAID’s support.

With USAID support, pumps like this have been installed in camps around Attapeu to bring clean water to those affected by the floods.
UNICEF Laos/2018/Simon
With USAID support, pumps like this have been installed in camps around Attapeu to bring clean water to those affected by the floods.

UNICEF has also provided 35 water points and constructed seven latrines in Ban Bok camp alone. Soap, tarpaulins, buckets, bowls and jerry cans have been distributed to all camps except those which are inaccessible.

Children demonstrate handwashing to other children in a WASH outreach activity in Oudomxay camp, Attapeu, Lao PDR.
UNICEF Laos/2018/Simon
Children demonstrate handwashing to other children in a WASH outreach activity in Oudomxay camp, Attapeu, Lao PDR.

Handwashing with soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrheaol diseases and pneumonia, which together are responsible for the majority of child deaths globally and become more prevalent during emergencies.

Facilitators during a WASH outreach activity teach children about handwashing and good hygiene practices in Oudomxay camp, Attapeu, Lao PDR.
UNICEF Laos/2018/Simon
Facilitators during a WASH outreach activity teach children about handwashing and good hygiene practices in Oudomxay camp, Attapeu, Lao PDR.

In order to deliver messages on handwashing, outreach teams supported by UNICEF visit camps to teach children about the importance of handwashing and how to wash their hands properly. Children like Khao take part in singing, dancing and storytelling activities to ensure they learn the right habits that will keep them safe for a lifetime.

Children sing a handwashing song during a WASH outreach session in Oudomxay camp, Attapeu, Lao PDR.
UNICEF Laos/2018/Simon
Children sing a handwashing song during a WASH outreach session in Oudomxay camp, Attapeu, Lao PDR.

“Our teacher already taught us how to wash our hands at school and I use the new tap a lot,” says Khao. “I’m also using the new toilet here, it’s much better than going out in the open.”

Khao Yai, 12, uses a UNICEF- and USAID-supported tap in Ban Bok camp, Attapeu, Lao PDR.
UNICEF Laos/2018/Simon
Khao Yai, 12, uses a UNICEF- and USAID-supported tap in Ban Bok camp, Attapeu, Lao PDR. WIth USAID support, taps like this have been installed in camps around Attapeu to bring clean water to those affected by the floods.

While it’ll take time to rebuild after what happened, delivering safe water and sanitation facilities to children like Khao, and their communities, is the first step to ensuring they stay healthy and happy.

A girl enters a UNICEF- and USAID-supported latrine in Ban Bok village, Attapeu, Lao PDR.
UNICEF Laos/2018/Simon
A girl enters a UNICEF- and USAID-supported latrine in Ban Bok village, Attapeu, Lao PDR.